By Reno Omokri
CAVEAT: I know Segun Adeniyi, the current chair of the editorial board of ThisDay newspapers, personally. He is a brilliant and intelligent patriot who, I believe, has Nigeria’s best interests at heart. This piece should not be seen as an attack on the former presidential spokesman. It should be seen in the light of what it truly is, an emergency intervention. Voices like Adeniyi and others of his kind are national treasures. They should be jealously guarded and appreciated by the nation. Part of that guarding and appreciating involves gently calling their attention to unforced errors they may have made so that they have the opportunity to make a course correction. That is the light in which this piece should be seen. End of Caveat.
There is so much misinformation in Nigeria today and I really can not understand how the media which was like a Rottweiler under former President Goodluck Jonathan has suddenly turned into a chihuahua. What is going on? A lot of Nigerian journalists have reduced themselves to generators of excuses for President Muhammadu Buhari and I am concerned for the fourth estate of the realm. Really concerned!
In particular, I was rather disappointed when Olusegun Adeniyi, said in his regular ThisDay back page column entitled ‘Leadership in a Time of Recession’ that ‘I sympathise with President Muhammadu Buhari because he inherited a broken system’ (published July 28, 2016). Puhlease! Inherited a broken system? Adeniyi in his piece more or less accused former President Goodluck Jonathan of inheriting a good system and handing over a worse and broken regime to President Muhammadu Buhari. What a daring revision of history! If any President tried to unbreak the system, that President is former President Goodluck Jonathan who demystified governance and lifted the veil that prior administrations had placed on the government infrastructure of Nigeria by signing the Freedom of Information Act into law on Saturday, May 28, 2011. The question that should be asked is that if the signing of the FOI law helped to un-break the system, what was the equal and opposite action for which the FOI law was a reaction? The system of transparency was broken in Nigeria when Major General Muhammadu Buhari (as he then was) promulgated Decree number 2 which made it a crime for any journalist or individual to report anything that embarrasses the government EVEN IF IT IS TRUE! That obnoxious law opened a Pandora’s box that encouraged every subsequent administration to tamper with press freedom. That was one tiny blow that broke the system.
Another blow that broke the system is the fact that because of the disregard to financial rules which was the hallmark of military dictatorships, especially the Babangida and Abacha administrations (contrary to Buhari statement that ‘Abacha did not steal’, Abacha did steal and stole big!) Nigeria had over the years operated a system where the federal and state governments maintained multiple accounts which made it easy for corruption to thrive.
The solution to un-breaking the system was a simple strategy devised by the Jonathan administration known as the Treasury Single account. In the activities that marked its first year in office, the Buhari administration listed the Treasury Single Account (TSA) as its showpiece achievement. Even The Economist of London described the TSA as ‘her (Adeosun’s) Treasury Single Account’.
The truth is that TSA does not belong to the beautiful minister of finance, Kemi Adeosun, in any way. To address it as her’s is a fraud of the highest order. The idea is the brainchild of Dr. Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and former President Goodluck Jonathan.
In an attempt to revise history, the Buhari administration has alleged that the Jonathan government did not have the political will to implement the TSA. What a lie! The truth is that the Jonathan administration had a Joseph who could see tomorrow (to borrow Mr. Adeniyi’s words) and that Joseph is alive today and is named Dr. Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. She warned the then President that an immediate and drastic implementation of the TSA would lead to a colossal loss of jobs in the banking industry whose multiplier effect could trigger recession in the economy. To forestall that from happening, she advised a gradualist approach to its implementation. With the benefit of hindsight, even Segun Adeniyi would have to agree that NOI was correct.
The Buhari administration’s mad rush to take glory for another man’s ideas led it to implement the TSA in one fell swoop which has led to the loss of 80,000 direct jobs in the banking industry and has contributed to the recession Nigeria now finds itself in. And the desire to take credit for the work of others, to reap where they did not sow and to bask in the shade of trees planted by others has become a troubling pattern in the life of this administration.
Before the coming of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, the railway sector of Nigeria was broken. Heck, it had even collapsed! The Jonathan administration revived it and not just that, the under appreciated Jonathan government went ahead to complete the Abuja-Kaduna 187 KM fast rail network. This legacy project was commissioned by President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday the 27th of July, 2016. On that day, the President admitted that the railways had been restored back to their lost glory.
The question for Segun Adeniyi is this, who broke the railways? If he does not know, then I humbly request for his physical mailing address so I can mail him a copy of the front page of The Sunday Times (a rested publication of Daily Times of Nigeria) dated Sunday, January 20, 1985 with the headline ‘Weeds Overrun Rail Coaches’. Does Segun Adeniyi want to hazard a guess as to who was in power in January of 1985 when the railways were broken? So Segun, let me get this straight, the military administration of President Buhari broke our railway and the government of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan straightened it out, yet in your judgment ‘President Muhammadu Buhari inherited a broken system’? When Major General Muhammadu Buhari took power in 1983 Nigeria had a free press, Nigeria Airways was a viable airline, Nigerian National Shipping Line had multiple ships, Nigerian Railway Corporation was in full working order and the first underground metro-line project was on its way to reality in Lagos. Let that represent an unbroken system.
By the time Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in as President on the 6th of May, 2010, not one of these corporations existed. Yet some pundits wants to heap all the blame on Dr. Jonathan for breaking the system!! Nigerians by and large are either cowards or suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, the act of blaming the victim and absolving the perpetrator. Let us be men and speak the truth to power.
The Nigerian system was broken by Muhammadu Buhari and his long list of military successors and the most comprehensive effort at un-breaking Nigeria was carried out by Dr. Goodluck Jonathan through the National Conference inaugurated by the then President on the 17th of March, 2014.
Funny enough, it is President Buhari, the man who allegedly ‘inherited a broken system’ that has said that the report of that conference is fit only for the ‘archives’. Why will he not say so, when he has enough people like Segun to generate unsolicited excuses for him! May the cerebral and highly respected Segun Adeniyi wake up one day and smell the coffee! In Jesus name, I pray! Failing to do so would be to surrender to the fallacy of the single narrative that Segun himself warns us about.
Vanguard, August 2016